I’m Stephanie Chang, and I have the honor of being Maker Ed’s Director of Youth Engagement. I also have a confession to make: I am 4-5 months late writing this introduction because I got caught up in everything wonderful happening at Maker Ed, and like any project – whether a wooden desk, a crocheted bag, or a youth program, time flies when you’re making.
I’m thrilled to be part of this fantastic team and even more excited to be working on the things I care about, namely developing fun, organic ways for youth (and really, people of all ages) to become engaged in learning. Making is an ideal avenue for just that, and my best personal educational experiences have been opportunities in which I get to do something with both my mind and hands.
I hail from the deep South, where I spent the majority of my childhood. I don’t have a Southern drawl, but if you entice me with enough gummy bears, I might be able to pull out an authentic “y’all” for fun. I loved all subjects in school, and I distinctly remember my 5th grade science teacher. He introduced us to the unit of biology by making science suddenly applicable to our own lives; he stood on his head and drank a cup of water – without it spewing out his nose or mouth! – to prove that food and liquids are pushed down the esophagus by muscles, not just gravity. That memory has stuck with me and green-lighted my interest in science.
I majored in Biology at MIT, with minors in Biomedical Engineering and Science, Technology, and Society (how all this stuff applies to the world around us!). My love for science, though, wasn’t to be found on lab benches, in pipettes and beakers, or even in the policy world – all of which I tried – but rather in the classrooms and fields of education. So, after a big gulp, toes crossed, and a cross-country roadtrip that brought me to California almost 8 years ago, here I am.
In the years since, I’ve been immersed in the world of education. I taught marine and environmental science (need a random fish or plant fact? I’m ready!!). I also ran the summer camp program at The Tech Museum, where we made stop-motion animation movies with clay characters, baked cookies to learn about food ingredients, took photos galore with pinhole and digital cameras, programmed original video games, and invented the best peanut butter containers on this side of the Rockies. I also went back to grad school at Stanford’s Learning, Design, and Technology program in the Graduate School of Education to better understand and explore education myself, and I juggled research in educational evaluation alongside work in educational design.
The Tech’s summer camp kids in Lego Robotics
About 2 years ago, I joined Maker Media’s education team to work on the MENTOR Makerspace project. Having been a fan of Maker Faire from its kickoff in 2006, I had the awesome opportunity to work closely with 15 high schools and teachers to help them – and learn from them – develop their makerspaces, curriculum, skills, and toolboxes (literally and figuratively). Teachers are incredible, y’all. Though that program ended, I hope my experiences will inform all the work I do going forward, and this grand community of educators (who are makers of makers!) is a great one to be a part of.
Meeting with teachers at the World Maker Faire
And my own making? I dabble in a lot of things, which result in a lot of unfinished piles ‘o stuff (like a 3-year-old half-sewn tshirt quilt with pins still attached), but I love practical around-the-house projects – likely influenced by my mom who taught me how to lay bathroom tile – and artsy-engineering-truly interdisciplinary endeavors, like glassblowing. I also like to tromp around nature and stare at banana slugs. These days, I’m attempting to make up for the times I zoned out during my physics classes by delving more into electricity. Next up: a lamp of some sort!
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